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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 21 February, 2019
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Alex White denies presiding over medical card review, says it was a joint decision

The junior minister admitted that the government was “too slow to move on the issue”.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

JUNIOR HEALTH MINISTER Alex White said he did not preside over the removal of discretionary medical cards from sick people “in any way”.

White, the Minister with Responsibility for Primary Care, said that the move to review the status of the cards was a “Cabinet decision made at the time of the budget”.

He admitted that “impact” of this decision was not “carefully enough assessed by the government at the time”.

Yesterday, he announced that the review process was stop with immediate effect.

The coalition came in for much criticism after it emerged that chronically ill people were losing their cards. White said that such incidents exposed “weaknesses in the system”.

A panel of experts will be established by the HSE to assess conditions that would qualify on medical need. They will be charged with drawing up conditions that would qualify for a card.

Slow to react

Today White admitted that ”the government was too slow to move on the issue”.

The government has to take responsibility for not reacting as quickly as it ought to have done … We’ll resolve this problem, we’ll fix this problem, we’ll do it properly.
He denied that his involvement in the review process meant he had no interest in social justice, saying he was “determined to pursue” the issue. White said he also remained committed to universal access to GP care.
Our responsibility in the first place must always be to care and treat people who are ill and need the services.

Earlier this week, TheJournal.ie obtained figures from the HSE that show from January 2013 to April 2014 there was a fall-off of 16,000 discretionary medical cards.

Of those eligible in January 2013, only 78 per cent were eligible 14 months later.

Labour leadership

White made the comments in Dublin today, after announcing that he would contest the Labour party leadership.

Yesterday Social Protection Minister Joan Burton was the first to throw her name into the ring for the role.

White said that the contest for the leadership would provide “a good opportunity to have a real conversation, a dynamic conversation about where we are in the Labour party at the moment and where we need to be in the future”.

I’ve a great deal of respect for Joan Burton, I regard her as a good friend of mine.

He added that, if elected, he has no preference for his deputy.

White said that “there was no such thing as a shafting of Eamon Gilmore” and denied threatening to resign if he stayed on as leader of the party.

In terms of the next budget, he said he was “very much in favour of tax relief” but was “at least as concerned if not more concerned about the impact of cuts in public expenditure, particularly in health”.

Background: Discretionary medical card review process to stop immediately

Related: It’s on: Alex White joins Joan Burton in contest for Labour leadership

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Órla Ryan

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